Is Cyberstalking a Crime in Illinois?
As technology evolves, people find new ways to use it both positively and negatively. The phrase “cyberbullying” is not new and has received a lot of media attention throughout the years as people seek to raise awareness of this modern version of harassment. Cyberstalking is a type of cyberbullying that has emerged over time. While cyberstalking has been seen by some as simply watching what someone posts on social media, the act of cyberstalking has become a real way to invade and threaten a person’s privacy. However, due to the nature of the Internet, there are instances in which someone might be falsely accused of cyberstalking if comments are taken out of context or misinterpreted. Therefore, it is important to seek legal counsel if you are facing charges for an Internet crime such as this.
What Is Cyberstalking?
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberstalking involves the use of technology to make someone else afraid or concerned about his or her safety. This type of bullying is not typically a one-time occurrence but a consistent form of harassment. Studies from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research found that 8 percent of American Internet users age 15 and up have felt unsafe or afraid as a result of cyberstalking. Females appear to experience the most severe forms of stalking, specifically through physical threats and sexual harassment. Many perpetrators prefer cyberstalking because of the few barriers that exist between them and the victim. The stalker can instantly target their victim while remaining at a distance.
Illinois Laws Against Cyberstalking
According to the laws in Illinois, a person commits cyberstalking when he or she uses electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that it would cause fear for that person’s safety or the safety of a third person, or that the targeted victim would suffer other emotional distress. This can include comments such as threats of harassment, violence, or sexual assault.
Cyberstalking can also occur when a person knowingly, surreptitiously, and without lawful justification installs or places electronic monitoring software or spyware on an electronic communication device, such as a computer, as a means to harass another person. The crime of cyberstalking can also include creating and maintaining a website or webpage that is available to one or more third parties for at least 24 hours which contains statements harassing the victim.
Sentencing for the crime of cyberstalking in Illinois depends on the circumstances and number of convictions. It is considered a Class 4 felony for a first offense, and a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony.
As with any criminal accusation, the consequences for an online charge can be serious, but the allegations may not always be true. The penalties, as well as the damage to someone’s reputation, can be devastating. Consequences can range from an order of protection to a sentence of probation or even jail time.
Someone may falsely accuse another person of cyberstalking for various reasons. For example, a person may be upset after a romantic relationship ended, and they may seek revenge by accusing their ex-partner of cyberstalking. They can twist and turn comments posted online to make it seem like the ex is now harassing them. This can also happen in cases where someone is fired from a job and accuses a former co-worker of an Internet crime, especially if they are connected on social media.
If you have been incorrectly accused of cyberstalking or cyberbullying, you need to protect yourself and your reputation immediately. Using strong passwords and always logging out of accounts will help prevent individuals from gaining access to your private accounts.
Contact a St. Charles Internet Crimes Defense Lawyer
Cyberstalking is a real and serious crime in the state of Illinois; however, not all those accused are guilty of the crime. Social media allows for mass access to private information, but it can also lead to false accusations on account of easily accessible material. Cyberstalkers can cause serious harm to their victims, but those making false accusations can also do a great deal of damage to a person's reputation, career, or criminal record. At the Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC, we have over 40 years of criminal law experience to bring to any type of criminal defense case. If you have been accused of cyberstalking or other Internet crimes, contact our Naperville criminal defense attorneys at 630-232-1780 for a free consultation.